The incumbent and the trendy title pick finally took the same courts Thursday at West Ranch High.
Then the Wildcats dispensed any drama by the end of the second round.
West Ranch girls tennis beat two-time defending Foothill League champion Valencia, 13-5, all but securing the Wildcats at least a share of their first league crown since 2011.
“We took our medicine for two years (losing to Valencia),” said third-year West Ranch coach Dina McBride. “…We played hard and said we were going to come back and work on the things we needed to work on, and we did.”
PHOTOS: West Ranch girls tennis hosts Valencia
The Wildcats (10-2 overall, 4-0 in Foothill) and Vikings entered league as the favorites, and they further separated themselves from the pack in the first three matches.
Thursday, West Ranch went one match in front of Valencia (8-6, 3-1) behind strong singles and doubles play.
Wildcats freshman Jordyn McBride set the tone in the first round.
It was her first West Ranch-Valencia matchup, and she said she woke up at 6:45 a.m. in anticipation.
She was up early on Valencia No. 1 single Amanda Tabanera, too — by a 5-2 mark.
But Tabanera, proving again why she’s one of the league’s best singles players, stormed back to force a tiebreaker. McBride refocused and won 7-6 (7-5 tiebreaker).
She then sprinted over to other Wildcats so she could celebrate.
“I ran right over and hugged all my teammates,” McBride said. “It was such a good feeling.”
The celebration also included a chest bump with No. 2 single Nicole Alvarez, who won two sets — 6-0, 6-0 — before falling to Tabanera, 4-6. McBride won all three of her sets, as did West Ranch’s No. 1 doubles team of Dani Hettinger and Brittany Waugh.
For Waugh, a senior, it was the first time she’d beaten Valencia in four years on varsity.
“They’re all amazing players and knowing that we worked hard enough to come out on top (is amazing),” Waugh said.
The Wildcats led 4-2 after the first round, and 9-3 after two.
Una Stanisavljevic won the Wildcats’ 10th set early in the third round to secure the match.
Valencia No. 3 single Kate Zeile sat out that third round after fighting through wrist pain in the second.
Tabanera won two sets 6-4, 6-2. The doubles pairing of Taylor Cohen and Nicole Stefani also won two sets for the Vikings, who will make some adjustments before the teams meet again on Oct. 18 at Valencia.
“I don’t know if (the changes will be) lineup wise or we’ll just keep practicing,” Kellogg said.
Hart 14, Canyon 4
The Indians (3-5, 2-2) were led by its No. 1 (Sarah Backer and Cameron Schwartz) and No. 2 (Rachael Nivichanov and Zoe Witherspoon) doubles teams. Both duos swept three sets.
Hart won eight of nine doubles sets and six of nine singles sets.
Adrienne Kashay won three sets for Canyon (1-7, 0-4).
Saugus 11, Golden Valley 7
No. 1 single Megan Cho led the Centurions (3-6, 2-2) by sweeping three sets, 6-1, 6-0, 6-0. Saugus’ No. 1 doubles team of Allison Hall and Ada Hanamaikai won three sets, 7-5, 6-4, 6-3.
Golden Valley’s No. 1 and No. 2 singles players, Kirsten Azarraga and Joyce Kim, both won two sets — as did the pairing of Megan Astadan and Helene Sarpong.
The Grizzlies are 3-5 overall and 1-3 in league.